By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
PAN-NIGER Delta Forum, PANDEF, the umbrella group of the South-South geo-political zone, slammed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Saturday, over the freezing of accounts of some state governments, saying it does not have official and moral powers to do so.
PANDEF, in a statement by the National Secretary, Dr. Alfred Mulade, said it was worried at the gale of executive lawlessness and contradictions masquerading under the cloak of fight against corruption in the nation, in recent times, especially with the recent spate of alleged freezing of accounts of some state governments by EFCC.”
Describing the freezing of accounts of state governments as had been allegedly ingloriously done; the group said it was a “clear display of illegality and sheer brigandage.”
“The EFCC must stick to, and operate within the provisions of the law establishing it, and not to allow itself to be used as seemingly political attack dogs against persons that hold different political inclinations or ideological sentiments.
“The instant cases involving Benue and Akwa Ibom states call for concern, as such actions, as embarrassing as they are, are likely also to heat up the already charged political space in the country.
“In as much as, PANDEF supports the fight against corruption, in ramifications, especially when launched in tandem with established rules of engagement, in accordance with extant statutes, we are, however, miffed at the way and manner, the action was being launched against Benue and Akwa Ibom state government accounts, with impunity, by the anti-graft agency,” the regional body said.
PANDEF stated: “Only the House of Assembly of a State, upon the advice of the Auditor General of the State can carry out action such as freezing and investigating of any account held by the respective state governments.”
“It is unthinkable that the EFCC which is a creation of law could hide under the cloak of of a purported investigation of security funds, which are part of the state government funds warehoused in state government accounts, to frozen the accounts of Benue and Akwa Ibom states. This is totally illegal.
“It must be placed on record that by the provisions of the EFCC Act, the Chairman of EFCC is only empowered to freeze the account of any legal entity, whether human beings or corporate organizations, when such a person is arrested and the commission is satisfied, upon a valid order of court of competent jurisdiction, that the money in the account of the arrested person is a proceed of crime. This does not apply to state governments.
“It follows that the powers of the EFCC to freeze account of a person, which arises where the person is under arrest and the money in the account of the person is suspected to be proceed of crime could not apply to state governments.
“Implication remains that it is very unlikely for the EFCC to apply the above provision to a state government because the state government cannot be in a situation where it can be arrested. “Even if in the event that some officials of the state government are arrested; the accounts in the name of the state government do not belong to the arrested officials but to the state government,” the group argued.
It added: “In any case, it is unthinkable and absurd for the account of a state government to be frozen because that would amount to grounding the activities of the state to a halt and this cannot be the intendment of the lawmakers in enacting the EFCC Act. One is at a loss, as to under whose authority the EFCC acted in the manner it did.”